I find myself in the Oakland airport waiting for my connecting flight. This trip to Lake Havasu City was not a vacation nor was it a business trip. This was a family trip. My mom was in the hospital and my dad needed on site help with important decisions about her care (as of this writing mom is heading for rehab).
Tomorrow (Sunday 9/27/15) St John’s as a congregation has an opportunity to gather together between the Sunday worship services not for a vacation or for business but for onsite help for important decisions regarding the care of our community. Carolyn Schoenborn put it this way in an email to the St John’s Google Group:
A Personal Invitation
Early in our ministry when our children were still young and our pastoral salary qualified our children for free lunches, our parents and key members of the congregation – in their own ways – saw to it that we had the resources we needed to keep from falling into unrecoverable poverty.
We now do the same for our adult children and their families. Sometimes the assistance is minor. Sometimes it has been major. But, families especially care for one another. However, if we are victims of generational poverty, how are such life saving resource made available?
St. Johns has a wonderful opportunity to step in and become a potentially significant resource to persons living in severe poverty here in Lewis County.
On behalf of the Social Ministries Committee, I encourage us all to attend the congregational meeting this Sunday and learn how we can make a major difference for persons who are homeless and living in poverty. It’s a ministry opportunity we will not want to miss!
Please accept Carolyn’s invitation and come at 9:45am Sunday morning to learn more about this exciting opportunity and to give your first hand help in important decisions for the care of our community.
I’ve spent time off and on in worship bands in ELCA worshipping communities over the last 25 years or so. One of the toughest things for me about playing in an ELCA worship band is that this kind of playing just doesn’t happen very often.
It isn’t so much the skill of these two men–it’s the pure joy they have at just playing their instruments together and exploring what they can do. As a church musician, I’ve found too often we turn music into an utilitarian exercise. Music is a means to an end. Musicians are there to lead the congregation in song. Musicians are there to not draw attention to themselves. Musicians must do whatever it takes to stay out of the way.
But as a musician, music just moves me. It is not a utilitarian exercise. There are rules and rudimentary skills, yes. However, there is so much more to what music has to offer you and me. Music is one of the ways in which we can experience God.
I remember being asked, “Can Christians sing the blues?” The answer is yes. And Christians can sing Hard Rock, Country, Bluegrass, Jazz, Classical, Pop, what ever music comes up–Christians can and I would argue should play the style.
In fact, I think we need to spend as much time gathered together as Christians enjoying where music takes us as we do following the little black notes in the hymn book, sheet music, chord chart, or choir music. Exploring music for the voice of God in big and little ways in the midst of the way the sounds of music move us.
Now that I have your attention, one of the hardest things to learn in ministry is discernment. Discernment is the process of figuring out what Jesus is calling one to do. You might call discernment “holy decision-making.” Sometimes discernment calls one to say no to really great ministry in order to say yes to what is really the calling of God.
Jesus didn’t follow the need. He followed His assignment.
So what does this hard work of discernment give us?
This week, let’s stop trying to be the hero. Instead, let’s pray and lean into what God is asking of us.
We may find that when we stop being busy trying to help everyone everywhere, we will find more energy, joy, fulfillment and success. Then we can focus on the needs we are called to, the situations we are assigned to and the people we are appointed to.
A man walked into the pastor’s office and said: “I want to join the church. But don’t ask me to do anything. I don’t want to be part of any organization. I don’t want to do any work. I’ll come to church when I feel like it, but that’s it.”
The pastor replied: “I see. Well you’re at the wrong address. Here, go to this address just down the road. They have exactly what you want.”
The man left and went down the street until he came to the address which the pastor gave him, and was shocked to find himself at the entrance to a cemetery.
Do we reflect the very best of the gospel of Jesus, or are we slipping into the lure of institutionalism and isolationism? Do we actually know our neighbors? Do we love our city as Jesus loved Jerusalem? Do we honestly care about the needs and lives of those outside the church? How do we welcome the stranger, and those very different than us? Are we aware of how unapproachable or otherworldly we appear to others? Do we recognize that, unless we convince them otherwise, our culture identifies us with the grotesque aberrations of Christianity that the media panders to? How have we allowed the political culture, rather than the gospel, to shape us?
These are great questions! We are called to constantly monitor how we are representing Christ to each other and to the world.
Psalm 95 1O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. 6O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
In Matthew 19 the disciples were trying to keep the little children away from Jesus. The disciples didn’t want Jesus distracted with little people outside his generation. Jesus reaction is recorded in Matthew 19:14
Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.
It is possible, today, for a middle-aged office worker to go to sleep on a Friday having interacted all week with not one person more than a decade older or younger; the same could well be true for her daughter in college, or her parents living at Pleasant Oaks Village. According to one study, Americans over 60 said that only a quarter of the people they had discussed “important matters” with during a six-month period were younger than 36; if they didn’t count relatives, the number dropped to an astonishing 6 percent.
The Church is probably the last place in the United States where young and old might actually interact with each other. And what do we do? We try to follow the world’s example and leave the interaction to the “professionals:” pastor, youth pastor, Sunday School teachers, etc.
So what happens when we mix across age/generational lines. We share faith with one another. We share life with one another. We share Jesus with one another:
Studies have shown that seniors in retirement homes benefit when they spend time reading to children and playing with them, while young people are given the chance to absorb wisdom and life experience.
I encourage you to read the whole article. There is a place for us to interact with peers of our own age and life experience. But God’s Kingdom calls us to break through the barriers that separate us.
God has given each of us gifts in the Communion of Saints. You are a Saint in God’s Kingdom no matter what generation you belong. The person from another generation is also a Saint in God’s Kingdom. Go meet a Saint today.